Skip to content

Surrey would’ve had a zero tax hike in 2024 with no SPS, council hears

Surrey’s general manager of finance Kam Grewal told council that on Monday
Surrey Police patch from Twitter Surrey RCMP by Anna Burns

Surrey’s general manager of finance Kam Grewal told council Monday that Surrey taxpayers would’ve had no tax increase in 2024 had the Surrey Police Service not existed, and the city was “still in the RCMP-only world.”

He noted the policing budget with both the RCMP and SPS is $221.5 million for operations in 2024.

“What is the difference and how much does that equate to in terms of a tax increase for 2024?” Coun. Rob Stutt asked.

“The difference between those two would be $33.5 million,” Grewal replied. “In terms of equating that to a tax increase for 2024, that would be a seven per cent tax increase equivalent.”

“Given your response,” Stutt pressed on, “if we only had the RCMP our tax increase would have been a zero per cent tax increase for 2024, is that correct?”

“Yes,” Grewal replied. “Our tax increase as proposed for both general and the roads is six plus one, so that seven per cent could have been removed and zero per cent would have balanced the budget.”

READ ALSO: Judge reserves decision in Surrey’s policing transition judicial review

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke seemed astounded. “Sorry, I just want to stick it back in my head – we would have had a zero per cent operating this year if we were not imposed with this transition? If we were just with the RCMP we would have zero?”

To that, Grewal replied that had the SPS “not been in the picture, so to speak, the budget for policing at the current levels would have been $188 million and just doing the simple math on the $221.5 million, that difference is $33.5 million equating to a seven per cent tax increase so both the roads, one per cent, and the general operating increase of six per cent would not have been necessary.”

Council gave final approval Monday to 26 bylaws related to the 2024 city budget with councillors Linda Annis, Mike Bose, Mandeep Nagra and Doug Elford voting against. Among these was the road levy.

“So, on the question all in favour?” Locke asked sardonically. “All opposed to having roads, maintenance in Surrey? Councillor Elford, Councillor Annis, Councillor Bose and Councillor Nagra.”

On April 22 third-reading was passed the budget which includes a six per cent property tax hike, a one per cent increase in the roads and tax levy, and a secondary suite fee increase on top of costlier utility rate fees.

Earlier in the evening, council approved the city’s 2024 audited and consolidated financial statements as presented by general manager of finance Kam Grewal in a 58-page corporate report.

“It’s obvious the City of Surrey is in very good financial health,” Coun. Doug Elford said. “It looks, appears to me that were we significantly in a surplus this year, is that correct, or of last year I mean?”

Grewal replied that is correct and the city was “definitely in a surplus position” at the end of 2023.

“I would suspect we will have another strong year in 2024 but given the macro environment relation to interest rates and what-not, it may not be as strong as it was in 2023,” which Grewal added “was one of the strongest years that we’ve had so I’d be hesitant to say we’ll replicate that but it is possible.”

READ ALSO: Surrey council approves budget with 6% property tax increase

READ ALSO: Surrey council approves utility rate hikes

Coun. Linda Annis noted there is more than $83 million in surplus and asked if that will be used to pay down debt or used for capital projects. Grewal replied that surpluses are “predominantly” used to fund the City of Surrey’s capital program. “The lion’s share of that is toward infrastructure.”

Coun. Gordon Hepner asked what Surrey’s current debt load is, related to the Municipal Finance Authority. Grewal said it’s “in the neighbourhood” of $260 million “so relatively low in terms of what we can borrow. So from that perspective we’re very healthy in terms of debt load.”

“It’s still a debt, Kam,” Hepner rejoined.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
Read more